MARIETTA - Tyler Hammond made a difficult shot look almost easy.
The 5-foot-11 freshman point guard's coast-to-coast running floater off the glass with six seconds left proved to be the game-winner as Marietta College rallied in the second half to defeat the Wittenberg University Tigers, 63-62, in an NCAA Division III Tournament second round game at Ban Johnson Arena Saturday night.
"It was both a tough shot and the type I can make," said Hammond, who celebrated a birthday Thursday. "It was 50-50.
"That was a great birthday present. I couldn't ask for anything more. Money or gifts are nothing compared to that."
When Hammond, who finished with nine points, raced up the court, MC trailed WU by a point, 62-61.
"I thought they were going to help off me, and Trevor (Halter) was going to be wide open," Hammond continued. "I was looking at Trevor the whole time, but they hugged him most of the time, so I just went in to create. I knew Kevin (Knab) was on the back side, because he was crashing for the tip in."
Photo by Art Smith
Marietta College’s Tyler Hammond celebrates with Pioneer fans after defeating Wittenberg, 63-62, in a NCAA Division III Tournament second round game at Ban Johnson Arena on Saturday.
Wittenberg (20-9) got off one last desperation shot by Chris Sullivan, but it missed the mark. The Tigers led for most of the contest.
Knab scored a team-high 12 points for the Pioneers, who are No. 13-ranked with a 27-3 record. J.J. Martin and Halter each chipped in with 11 points. The MC bench was once again productive, contributing 28 points.
Marietta now will advance to NCAA Tournament sectional play next weekend at a site to be determined Monday.
Marietta 63, Wittenberg 62
WITTENBERG: Michael Cooper 2-6 0-0 4; Clayton Black 5-12 2-2 12; Alex Brandt 5-6 0-0 10; Steven Newell 1-5 0-0 2; Chris Sullivan 6-9 0-0 17; Seth Hill 4-5 2-2 11; Josh McKee 2-3 0-0 6; Justin McDowell 0-0 0-0 0; Cole Bond 0-0 0-0 0; Jacob Weide 0-1 0-0 0. Team 25-47 4-4 62; 3pt goals 8 (Sullivan 6, Hill 1, McKee 2).
MARIETTA: Jason Humphrey 1-2 1-4 3; Kevin Knab 5-9 2-2 12; Trevor Halter 4-9 0-1 11; Tyler Hamond 4-8 1-1 9; Jacob Owens 0-5 0-0 0; Tyler Worstell 2-3 0-0 5; Brian Crader 1-2 0-0 3; J. J. Martin 4-7 1-2 11; Joe Puch 2-3 0-0 5; Conner Kilpatrick 2-5 0-0 4. Team 25-53 5-10 63.
Team stats Wittenberg: Shooting 25-47 (53 percent); 3pt shooting 8-15 (53 percent); Rebounds 28 (Black 9); Assists 11 (Cooper 2, Black 2, Newell 2); Steals 6 (Cooper 2, Sullivan 2); Turnovers 19; Blocks 4 (Black 3); Total fouls 14; Fouled out: none. Marietta: Shooting 25-53 (47 percent); 3pt shooting 8-21 (38 percent); Rebounds 24 (Knab 5); Assists 12 (Halter 3); Steals 9 (Owens 3); Turnovers 12; Total fouls 10; Fouled out: none.
WU was paced by Sullivan, who tallied a game-high 17 points, 14 in the first half. Clayton Black added 12 points and a game-high nine rebounds, Seth Hill netted 12 points and Alex Brandt had 10.
Sparked by Sullivan's deadeye shooting from 3-point range, Wittenberg staked itself to a 34-27 first-half advantage. The 5-foot-9 Tiger senior drained four treys, and was five of five from the floor.
"I think Chris Sullivan was the big difference in the first half," said MC head coach Jon VanderWal. "We just had a hard time guarding him. Not only did he create shots, but he created a lot of shots for his teammates. He just created a lot of offense for them.
"Defensively, I thought Wittenberg took us out of anything we wanted to do. We did not do a very good job of executing our game plan offensively in the first half. They were just really physical with our post guys. We just had a hard time getting it into the post."
After the break, Marietta's Joe Puch and Jacob Owen took turns defensively in guarding Sullivan, and limited the Wittenberg standout to three points.
"In the second half, we did a better job defensively on Sullivan," VanderWal said.
Offensively, MC slowly but surely whittled away at the deficit, and stayed within striking distance of WU. Early on, Halter's triple at the 14:24 mark capped a 7-0 Pioneer run and tied the score at 40-40. From that point on, it was a dogfight between the two schools to the final buzzer.
The second half featured seven lead changes and three ties.
With under a minute remaining, Sullivan's only points of the second half, a triple, gave the Tigers a 60-58 lead. But Marietta had an answer for that in the name of Puch, who responded in kind with his only 3 of the game, making it 61-60.
"I was actually trying to call a timeout when Joe hit his 3," VanderWal said. "Thank goodness, that didn't happen. That was just an enormous shot. He's got a lot of guts for pulling that shot."
Hill's two freebies, however, with 11.4 seconds put Wittenberg back in front, and set up Hammond's final run and shoot.
"We wanted to get what we call a fullcourt spread where we just kind of spread the court," VanderWal said. "And we were having Kevin (Knab) set Tyler a ball screen. We wanted him to go to his left, because we put Trevor (Halter) over there."
The southpaw shooting Hammond never hesitated in delivering the ball cleanly off the glass and into the basket.
"I should of known that Tyler wasn't going to pass it," said VanderWal, laughing. "But that's all right. We've got a lot of faith in this young man. He's hit some big shots for us this season."